BOOKS and CDs
A CurtainUp Review
The Other Josh Cohen
By Elyse Sommer
Besides disproving Durocher's idiom and leavening Kushner's serious theological ponderings, the show currently at the SoHo Playhouse serves the purpose of showcasing David Rossmer and Steve Rosen's talents as tunesmiths and performers. And so do its book, lyrics and music by Rosen and Rossmer, starring, you guessed it, Rossmer and Rosen — the former as Narrator and present day Josh and the latter the mustachioed year-ago Josh.
The dynamic Josh duo has enough show biz savvy (both have solid resumes that include Broadway musical credits) not to take stardom ambitions to the point of meglomania. Thus they've left the direction in the capable hands of Ted Sperling whose orchestrations for Light in the Piazza won Tony and Drama Desk awards. They're also sharing the stage with the terrific Kate Wetherhead to play a lot of the people who wander in and out of their story, as well as three additional shape shifters to play the other people when not tackling drums, keyboards and bass.
With a name like Cohen it's hardly surprising that much of the humor derives from Jewish shtick and that the other people include the stereotypical Jewish mother and father, and Jewish guilt driving the way Josh deals with an unanticipated and much needed financial windfall that's probably not intended for him. Not exactly the stuff of a ground-breaking book. The songs are catchy, with amusing easy rhyming lyrics, but not the sort of memorable hummers to stick in your ears long after you've left the theater.
Familiar stand-up routine-like as all this may sound, The Other Josh Cohen is a pleasant escape from real life worries about diminished job opportunities and incomes, not to mention world peace and climate change.
The set-up of having Rossmer and Rosen interact as the title character's present-day persona and the one whose bad luck took a dramatic turn for the worse and then another turn for a nice guys can finish first ending turns trite into terrific fun. Actually there's really another Josh who's heard but not seen and very much instrumental in the outcome of the two-in-one Josh's story.
Rossmer and Rosen delightfully kvetch, sing and dance their way through recollections of how Josh's dismal history with women and professional success is exacerbated by having his apartment broken into and leaving him without a single possession, except a Neal Diamond CD (and that not even the one with Diamond's diamonds!). The sudden reversal of fortune comes via a $56,000 check made out to Josh Cohen from an unknown Florida relative.
Much of the fun comes from the verve and versatility of the four other cast members who manage to make even the stock and potentially offensive use of Jewish stereotypes a laugh riot. Vadim Feichtner whose several characters include a hilarious voice mail greeting as Josh's dentist father, not also plays the keyboards but also serves as the show's music director. Kate Wetherhead, the only non instrument playing member of the ensemble, gets to play most of the people in the Josh saga. With a big assist from costume designer Dustin Cross, she often comes close to stealing the show.
The SoHo Playhouse isn't the most comfortable venue in town, but The Other Josh Cohen is another entry in quite a list of entertaining, highly recommended shows I've seen there.
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